Congress Testimony Sees Execs Playing Defense.

That Was The Week, #42

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Editorial: My Take

If I was to sum up my take this week, it would be - we can't trust Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Sundar Pichai with the future of the Internet. That said, we may have no choice. If I had to choose one, it would be Jack.

When the three tech titans zoomed in to Congress on Wednesday, they were confronted with Democrats who refused to engage in a real conversation to spotlight the politicized and weaponized nature of the hearing, called by and run by Republicans. They were also met by "free speech" Republicans like Ted Cruz, accusing the platforms of "biased" "censorship."

I felt sorry for Jack Dorsey - the most principled of the three. When his staff intervened in the New York Post story regarding Hunter Biden's laptop, they cut his legs off at the knees. @Jack believes in allowing all points of view that do not violate Twitter's policies to be left untouched - a point of view I concur with. But that said, once pulled, it is hard to not succumb to the request to remove more or the request to not pull at all. Cruz was all over the place. Claiming to believe in free expression, but asking Twitter to explain why it had not removed other Tweets from "dictators." In doing so, he accidentally compared Trump to the dictators - entirely appropriate, really. Dorsey stayed true to his beliefs.

Not so much, Mark Zuckerberg. We can sum up his message as "please regulate me," and yes, please "change 230". "I do not want to make censorship decisions but I am happy to comply if you guys do it." In saying that, he single-handedly gave the Republicans the keys to the Internet. That is a shame and will cost a high price in freedom reversed should Trump win on 3 November, or if Democrats take him up on his offer - which they will.

Sundar, oh poor Sundar. He must have been wondering why he was there at all. Safe to say he did not really influence events either way - possibly his goal.
The aftermath was a sense of wasted time. It is unlikely that the whole thing was anything other than a failed election stunt

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This week's video is here:

--News Of The Week 1: Politicians & Tech Titans

--News Of The Week 2: All Change in Silicon Valley

--The Best of the Rest

Startup Of The Week: Bind Benefits

Podcasts Of The Week: Greylock and Andreessen

Tweet Of The Week: Reading Matter

--News Of The Week 1: Politicians & Tech Titans

Article on Joe and Hunter Biden Censored By The Intercept

Greenwald on Substack

I am posting here the most recent draft of my article about Joe and Hunter Biden — the last one seen by Intercept editors before telling me that they refuse to publish it absent major structural changes involving the removal of all sections critical of Joe Biden, leaving only a narrow article critiquing media outlets. I will also, in a separate post, publish all communications I had with Intercept editors surrounding this article so you can see the censorship in action and, given the Intercept’s denials, decide for yourselves (this is the kind of transparency responsible journalists provide, and which the Intercept refuses to this day to provide regarding their conduct in the Reality Winner story). This draft obviously would have gone through one more round of proof-reading and editing by me — to shorten it, fix typos, etc — but it’s important for the integrity of the claims to publish the draft in unchanged form that Intercept editors last saw, and announced that they would not “edit” but completely gut as a condition to publication:

Publication by the New York Post two weeks ago of emails from Hunter Biden's laptop, relating to Vice President Joe Biden's work in Ukraine, and subsequent articles from other outlets concerning the Biden family's pursuit of business opportunities in China, provoked extraordinary efforts by a de facto union of media outlets, Silicon Valley giants and the intelligence community to suppress these stories.

How Facebook, Google, Twitter Diverge in Defense of Tech’s Liability Shield

The Information, @NickBastone, @alexeheath and @csternopher

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (l-r). Photo: Bloomberg

When the chief executives of Facebook, Google and Twitter testify Wednesday before a Senate committee on how they control content on their services, they will argue against rolling back Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields internet companies from lawsuits over user-generated posts.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has repeatedly said his company wants to take less of a role in setting rules around problematic content, is pushing for federal regulation that would set clear content moderation standards for companies. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey wants to give users more control over the algorithms that shape what they see. Google CEO Sundar Pichai in his testimony refrained from suggesting specific remedies, instead warning of the consequences of any changes to Section 230.

Surprise! The Section 230 Hearing Wasn’t About Section 230

Wired, @GiladEdelman

  • In the event, however, the hearing was mostly an opportunity for Republicans on the committee to berate Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for supposedly discriminating against conservative users — especially conservative user number one, Donald Trump.
  • Indeed, over the course of the hearing, Dorsey fielded more questions from Republicans than those two combined, according to a New York Times tally .

Zuckerberg And Facebook Throw The Open Internet Under The Bus; Support Section 230 Reform

TechDirt, @mmasnick

from the because-of-course dept

Tue, Oct 27th 2020 2:27pm — Mike Masnick

Facebook is throwing the open internet under the bus -- in part gleefully, as so-called "critics" of Facebook stupidly demanded "reforms to Section 230" incorrectly believing that 230 was a "special subsidy" for Facebook. Facebook doesn't need it any more, but all of the people who called for such reforms are now going to help cement Facebook's position of dominance.

This shouldn't be much of a surprise, unfortunately, but it appears that once again Facebook is the first to crack under political pressure, and has decided to sell out the open internet and free speech online. In testimony Mark Zuckerberg is planning to give tomorrow to the Senate Commerce Committee, he's going to say a few nice things about Section 230, immediately followed by him saying the company now supports reforming the law. The praise for Section 230 is accurate, but it doesn't much matter when he takes it back immediately:

However, the debate about Section 230 shows that people of all political persuasions are unhappy with the status quo. People want to know that companies are taking responsibility for combatting harmful content—especially illegal activity—on their platforms. They want to know that when platforms remove content, they are doing so fairly and transparently. And they want to make sure that platforms are held accountable.

Where The Case Against Google Could Fall Apart

Big Technology, @Kantrowitz

  • The Toolbar put a Google search box below Internet Explorer’s address bar, giving people a way to use Google right in the browser.
  • Google “pays billions of dollars each year to distributors,” the DOJ said , “to secure default status for its general search engine and, in many cases, to specifically prohibit Google’s counterparties from dealing with Google’s competitors.”

The DOJ Is Fighting Google on a Shifting Battlefield


After years of investigations, hearings, and the rattling of legal sabers, we finally have a Techlash case: United States of America, et al. v. Google LLC. As I wrote earlier in the week, the government made a direct comparison to the Microsoft case two decades earlier, where it also invoked the trust-busting Sherman Act. In that litigation, the key issue was whether or not Microsoft leveraged its market power to jam its browser down the throats of users. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson agreed with the government and ruled that Microsoft had abused its operating system monopoly.

But look at what happened next. Even though Microsoft lost its suit, its Explorer browser still dominated the market. It wasn’t until more than a decade later that a rival browser finally surpassed Microsoft’s product. That was Chrome, introduced in 2008 by, of course, Google. It wasn’t antitrust action that toppled Explorer, but a better option.

The current litigation focuses on search. (Another key component is Google’s licensing arrangements on the Android phone operating system, but search is involved in that, too.) Google might well use the Chrome example to argue that the same phenomenon could happen in search—a more innovative alternative knocks off the king of the hill. The Department of Justice would dispute that, charging that Google relies not just on the quality of its search engine, but plows some of its profits, and unfairly forces deals on phone manufactures, to unfairly block competitors. Among the ways it does this is spending billions of dollars to make Google search the default option in browsers like Safari and Mozilla. The DOJ is saying that without litigation, it’s inconceivable that anyone could take on Google in search.

--News Of The Week 2: All Change in Silicon Valley

Seeing the present (of emerging micro-VC) clearly


We talked previously about the importance of emerging micro-VCs to the overall health of the VC ecosystem, but we didn’t talk about the relevance and importance in terms of overall growth, returns, and risk.

So let’s talk about that!


  • Private markets are growing quickly - VC in particular - for a variety of reasons, one of which is likely the high potential for outsize returns
  • Within VC, growth is lopsided. Later-stage VC and larger funds are attracting capital at a faster rate than early-stage VC and smaller funds
  • Newer and smaller funds tend to outperform older and larger ones, but also present greater risk
  • (Most) emerging micro-VCs look to LPs a lot like seed-stage startups look to VCs: Small, early, and mostly an idea. Like seed-stage startups, they can present enormous returns, but also come with significant risk.

The Majority of Advertising Dollars are Now Being Spent Online

Visual Capitalist

  • U.S. spending on pure-play internet advertising is expected to reach a whopping $151 billion by the year 2024
  • While the ad industry has taken a significant hit in 2020 because of COVID-19, it’s projected to see overall growth in 2021, and a majority of this growth is expected to come in the form of internet advertising.

Why going public sooner is a sign of strength (and SPL is the opposite)

Unicorn Market Cap & Industry Towns, 2020

Elad Gil

  • Some big caveats include (1) Unicorn market cap is a lagging indicator of ecosystem health since many companies take anywhere from 2–7 years to be worth their first billion (2) COVID and the move to more remote work or “remote first” startups may impact what this looks like in 4–5 years (3) San Francisco governance may decrease San Francisco’s long term relevance, although the broader Bay Area should be strong longer term.
  • Half of the 187 new unicorns since June 2019 are in 5 cities 88 of the 187 new unicorns since June 2019 are in Silicon Valley, New York, Los Angeles in the USA and Beijing and Shanghai in China.

Venture Capital in 2020/2021 and “The Postmates Effect”. I.e., It’s OK to Be #2 or #3 Now.


  • I was recently catching up with one of the top VCs of all time on what was new.  He said the biggest change in venture capital wasn’t investing over Zoom, or Cloud multiples, or even the pace of investing today.  No, the biggest change in Venture Capital in 2020-2021 is what he called “The Postmates Effect”.  That Postmates was arguably #3 to Doordash and UberEats, and still was worth billions.
  • Put differently, Cloud has gotten so big, that every winner is now a decacorn and no longer “just” a unicorn, i.e. worth >$10 billion.  And because of that, for maybe the first time, the #2 and even the #3 in the market can be worth $1b+:

That new CARR smell


  • Then CARR started appearing in investor decks, then companies wanted to be valued as a multiple of it instead of ARR, then companies started talking about “verbal” Contracted Annual Recurring Revenue (VCARR).
  • + additions to ARR expected in the next 6–12 months (or maybe before end of calendar year) that represent increases baked into contracts that are already implemented.

--The Best of the Rest

VCs poured capital into European startups in Q3, but early-stage dealmaking appeared to suffer 


  • The strong results come in the wake of a cracking quarter for venture capital activity in the United States and a generally bullish period for the global VC market .
  • Let’s get into the good and bad from Europe’s quarter, contrasting our new data with some prior numbers that we saw when looking into aggregate VC data from Q3.

How Berlin has become a centre for European venture capital 

The Economist

  • For brits of a certain age and inclination, Berlin is a city that is forever linked with David Bowie. When he lived there in the late 1970s, Bowie’s life was in flux. He was estranged from his wife, splitting from his management and trying to slough off rock-star excess. Berlin was similarly unsettled: a refuge for artists, misfits and draft-dodgers on the front line of the Cold War. Bowie lived anonymously above a car-parts store. He did some of his best work there.
  • The block of flats where Bowie lived with Iggy Pop, another celebrated rock star, still stands. Berlin remains an edgy, in-between sort of place—it is Germany’s capital, but is not quite German. And it remains a place where people go to try something new. It now vies with London and Paris as Europe’s leading hub for technology startups.

EFF Files Comment Opposing the Department of Homeland Security’s Massive Expansion of Biometric Surveillance


  • EFF, joined by several leading civil liberties and immigrant rights organizations, recently filed a comment calling on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to withdraw a proposed rule that would exponentially expand biometrics collection from both U.S. citizens and noncitizens who apply for immigration benefits and would allow DHS to mandate the collection of face data, iris scans, palm prints, voice prints, and DNA.
  • It fails to take into account the serious privacy and security risks of expanding biometrics collection; it threatens First Amendment activity; and it does not adequately address the risk of error in the technologies and databases that store biometric data.

Here’s how fast a few dozen startups grew in Q3 2020

Fundings & Exits — TechCrunch

  • Notarize : Digital notarization startup Notarize — Boston-based, which most recently raised a $35 million Series C — is way ahead of where it expected to be, with a VP at the company telling TechCrunch that during “the first week of lockdowns, Notarize’s sales team got 3,000+ inquiries,” which it managed to turn into revenues.
  • That makes its growth metrics rather impressive as its implied revenue base from which it grew so quickly this year is larger than we’d expect from younger companies.

3 Biggest Mistakes Founder CEOs Make When Building that Crucial First Team

Powered by Battery

I’ve recently been reflecting on challenges many founder CEOs face—myself included—in getting a company off the ground, and I keep coming back to the importance of the team. All startups have a vision and seeds of a product that has the potential to be something great, but success comes down to how well you execute the vision and build the right team to act on it.

Far too often, technical CEOs who have brilliant ideas cannot execute on them, leading to their replacement by seasoned CEOs. These CEOs with years of experience know the ins and outs of the business world, but they often lack the vision and passion that the one who came up with the idea brings to the table. Therefore, the vision goes unrealized.

By assembling your first team strategically, you can avoid many of the roadblocks first-time CEOs encounter. Here are three of the most common mistakes when it comes to hiring for your startup’s executive team and how to overcome them. These may seem obvious, but they’re easy to make when running a fast-growing company.

--Startup Of The Week: Bind Benefits

How Bind Benefits’ CEO will use $105M to upend the health insurance market — MedCity News

MedCity News

  • Bind Benefits, a personalized health plan provider that recently entered the fully insured market in Florida, has raised $105 million in a new funding round.
  • In a wide-ranging phone interview, Bind CEO Tony Miller expanded on this new vision of health insurance and discussed the future of the employer-based insurance market, among other things.

--Podcasts Of The Week: Greylock and Andreessen

--How to Fundraise Successfully

Greylock Perspectives — Medium

  • In this episode of Greymatter, Venkataramani sat down with Greylock general partner and Rockset board member Jerry Chen to discuss how his team is approaching the new era of cloud-only infrastructure.
  • Glen Evans at Greylock is one of the most important people to know if you want to land a job at a startup.

Data Alone Is Not Enough: The Evolution of Data Architectures

Andreessen Horowitz

  • This podcast — a hallway style conversation between Ali Ghodsi, CEO and founder of Databricks, and a16z general partner Martin Casado — explores the evolution of data architectures, including some quick history, where they’re going, and a surprising use case for streaming data, as well as Ali’s take on how he’d architect the picks and shovels that handle data end-to-end today.
  • Data, data, data — it’s long been a buzzword in the industry, whether big data, streaming data, data analytics, data science, even AI & machine learning — but data alone is not enough: it takes an entire system of tools and technology to extract value from data.

--Tweet Of The Week: Reading Matter